Women’s March overlooked complexities of movement

After a large discrepancy between the results of the popular vote and the electoral college in the presidential election, the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States was received with lukewarm support. On Friday, Jan. 20, President Trump was sworn in and on Saturday, Jan. 21, half a million people took to the streets in Washington, D.C., as well as in sister marches across the nation, to protest. Together the marches became the largest protest in United States history.

While crowd estimates comparing the march to the inauguration aren’t readily available due to the difficulty of crowd science, D.C. metro ridership is indicative of the differences in support of the events. On Friday, Jan. 20 by 11 a.m. there were 193 thousand trips taken in comparison to 275 thousand on the day of the women’s march. According to the official website of the march, around 4.9 million people participated in 673 marches around the world for women’s rights and equality. Despite the historical significance of the march and the strong message it sent to our lawmakers and Trump’s administration, there were numerous shortcomings. The march did not support transwomen, sex workers, sexual assault survivors or people of color to the same extent that it advocated for the rights of women of less marginalized identity groups (read: straight cis white women).

Thousands of supporters wore pink knitted hats, called “pussy hats,” and carried signs reading phrases such as “pussy power,” “viva la vulva” and “this pussy grabs back.” While the latter serves as retaliation against President Trump’s statement, “Grab them by the pussy,” the graphic nature of this slogan is insensitive towards sexual assault survivors by triggering traumatic memories and beyond.

Collectively, these slogans also tell another story: one in which anatomy defines womanhood. They exclusively support cis females and utterly disregard trans women. As a result, the dangerous presence of TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists is strongly felt by many trans women and more. This group consists of two subgroups, accidental TERFs and intentional TERFs. Accidental TERFs unknowingly express that trans women are not real women by referring to anatomy or sex as the defining factor of gender. On the other hand, intentional TERFs outwardly claim that trans women are not women, but rather are men in disguise. But whether accidental or intentional, the presence of TERFs and their positions is always a harmful phenomenon. Confronted with anatomy-based slogans and signs, trans women felt excluded and targeted at the women’s marches worldwide.

In addition to signs, trans women were visibly underrepresented during the speeches and performances at the marches, especially at the Women’s March on Washington. According to Advocate, out of 60 performers and speakers at the D.C. march who took the stage for the six-hour program, only three of them identified as trans. While the platform of the Women’s March stated, “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us,” it failed to sufficiently center marginalized women (Hispanic Federation, “HF Heads to Women’s March on Washington,” 01.20.2017).

While the march was meant as a demonstration of inclusive pro-woman strength, many people of color took issue with the role that white women chose to play in these marches. Some questioned whether the protest was so successfully peaceful because the police viewed the march as predominantly white, and therefore less threatening, noting that the police were not heavily armed and even posed in photos with protesters. Additionally, many protestors brought up the fact that 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, illustrating the importance of centering marginalized voices within the march.

For some straight white cis women attending the march, the only discrimination they face is in response to their gender. It is critical that feminist groups and events such as the Women’s March focus on marginalized women, to whom the Trump administration poses a significantly greater threat. Although the speeches and performances were a necessary part of the march, it is crucial to practice as well as preach intersectionality, and to respond to transmisogyny, racialized sexism and other multilayered forms of discrimination. Women’s movements in the United States are rooted in Black feminism and trans activism, and yet Black Lives Matter protests and marches for trans rights rarely see the outpouring of support from white cis women that was present at the Women’s March.

Additionally, the fact that the march took place after Trump’s inauguration rather than during voting periods means that it was mainly symbolic and did not produce any direct results. However, such a show of unity against Trump could have had a real effect on his election had it taken place before Jan. 20. In response to the march, Trump tweeted, “Why didn’t these people vote?” acknowledging the impact that this movement could have had on the election. While we can assume that most people who attended the march voted, as shown in the results of the popular vote, he raises a unnerving point. If everyone who protested Trump’s election in January had taken action beforehand, perhaps they could have changed the complacency of white women who were not immediately in danger at the time and easily stayed silent.

Despite the lack of concrete results, the marches that occured in the days following the inauguration indicate the amount of power and unity people could gain by coming together, which shows potential to affect change in the current political situation. However, moving forward, it is crucial to focus on the immediate and long-term results that this administration will have on marginalized groups, and to show support in informed, productive ways.

As protesters returned from the marches, the question asked by many was, “What next?” The actions and advocacy cannot stop here. If we want to spark real change, we must continue to fight. Donate to Planned Parenthood; reach out to local representatives to urge them to support or dismiss political actions; organize to defend our rights.

Within our own campus, it is more crucial than ever to support trans women, women of color, undocumented students, students from Muslim countries and survivors of sexual assault. While the mission statement for the Women’s March proudly proclaimed, “We invite all defenders of human rights to join us,” it failed to specify that they must defend all human rights (Women’s March on Washington, “Mission & Vision”).

There will surely be more marches and events of this sort during this administration. Recent protests in airports across the country following Trump’s executive order limiting the admission of refugees shows that the determination and anger displayed on Jan. 21 has not died down. It is vital to build off this momentum and continue to center the voices of marginalized women in our fight against the Trump administration.

— The Staff Editorial expresses the opinion of at least 2/3 of The Miscellany News Editorial Board.

One Comment

  1. Re male-to-female transgenders accusing the women’s march of trans misogyny because of their references to pussies, pussy hats, and vagina centric rhetoric:

    Men can talk about their penises all day and they aren’t accused by female-to-male transgenders as being trans misandristic! Female-to-male transgenders are not telling men to shut up about their penises because they (male-to-female transgenders) have “unconventional penises.” Women are perfect targets for this kind of attack…because of their internalized misogyny. An “unconventional pussy” doesn’t make mine irrelevant! Yea for the pussy hats! Keep the vagina monologue going!

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